When planning our Iberian adventure, Zeev Dunie of Seahorse Winery insisted we spend a night at Bussaco, an opulent royal palace built between 1888 and 1907 by the last kings of Portugal. The hotel has its own highly-rated but little-known winery dating back to the 1920's.
Situated conveniently between Lisbon and Porto, a stay here is not to be missed. The rooms are comfortable, finished in wood and marble. The hotel is decorated with azulejo blue and white tiles forming huge murals dedicated to the country's age of discovery. There are also murals recognizing the victory of the Anglo-Portuguese troops at the site against Napoleon over 200 years ago. The accommodation is reasonably priced and the breakfast bountiful. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and reservations are recommended.
Shortly after checking in, we were welcomed by Bussaco Palace Hotel's winery manager Antonio Rocha for a pre-arranged exclusive visit to the cellars and private tasting of two red reserves made 30 years apart - 1983 and 2013..
Before the tasting however Antonio took us to the top of the mountain to see the views, and to understand the two regions, and terriors, which provide his grapes. The winery only produces two blends both made from grapes from the hotel’s own vineyards as well as local growers in the Dao and Bairrada regions.
Tinto (red) is a blend of Baga grapes from Bairrada and Touriga Nacional grapes from the Dao, while the Branco (white) is a blend of Dao's Encruzado with Maria Gomes and Bical from the Bairrada region.
Both the red and white are made for aging. The hotel is currently offering Branco Reservado 1944 for 850 Euros through 2014 for 32 Euros. Tinto Reservado 1945 heads the wine menu at 1100 Euros while 2013 wraps up the list at 32 Euros. Not every vintage is available. Stocks have run out for some of the earlier years while in others, when the quality of the grapes failed to make the grade, any wine produced was not offered for sale but distributed to the employees.
With only 10,000 bottles each of red and white produced each year, the wine is only available in Portugal through the hotel.
The 2013 has floral aromas of violets, honeysuckle almost. Vibrant with almost aggressive tannins and lively acidity, this is a wine that is just an infant.
The '83 on the other hand, made from the same blend and aged similarly, is amazingly different. The sweet floral notes coming from the Touriga Nacional are barely noticable in the background overshadowed by powerful tobacco and leather, typical of the Baga variety which provides the tannins and acidity. The empty glass had a residual aroma of spent gunpowder.
Following the tasting Antonio brought the open bottles to the hotel restaurant and we were treated to exceptional food pairings to match the two vintages. We were also served a 10-year-old tawny port by Burmester to accompany the dessert.
For more information on the hotel, operated by the Almeida family's Thema group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
(First published at facebook/dpsphotos October 5, 2016)
Photos by David Silverman. Copyright © 2016 dpsimages. All Rights Reserved.